Archives: digital

Did you know The Washington Post has its own eBook series published by Diversion Books?

I didn’t, until this superbly succinct page-turner came my way. At just over 100 pages, Steven Levingston, the Post’s nonfiction editor, describes in equally devastating and uplifting detail, a moment in the life of JFK that forever changed him.

Of course, the book is for you to read, but in the meantime, let’s just relish this gorgeous cover. It really says it all, doesn’t it?

TWP epub cover-Kennedy-FINAL

About the Book

A sensitive portrait of how a profound tragedy changed one of America’s most prominent families.

On August 7, 1963, heavily pregnant Jackie Kennedy collapsed, marking the beginning of a harrowing day and a half. The doctors and family went into full emergency mode, including a helicopter ride to a hospital, a scramble by the President to join her from the White House, and a C-section to deliver a baby boy, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, five and a half weeks early with a severe respiratory ailment. The baby was so frail he was immediately baptized.
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Too Big to Fail?

Will a Random House/Penguin Merger Stave Off the Amazon Threat?

In yet another sign of the major changes happening in the publishing industry, it was announced Monday that Random House and Penguin have agreed to a merger, creating the biggest global, consumer book publisher in the world, controlling over 25% of the market, according to The New York TimesWitty Twitter comments aside (Random Penguins, anyone?), literary agents, authors and other industry professionals have voiced real concerns about the merger: having fewer publishers to submit to, fewer books, lower advances, and jobs in limbo. (This week, Simon & Schuster announced layoffs and a new restructuring plan.) There were even murmurs that come this Wednesday, Murdoch would make a one billion dollar offer for Pearson, Penguin’s parent company, “terrifying agents and authors,” and possibly causing a bidding war with Random House. This never came to pass. Yet.

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Books are made on word-of-mouth.
At least those books that receive critical acclaim or top the bestseller charts. Think The Help or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and countless others.

This is more than publicity. This is the unquantifiable magic of human capital. No matter how much you spend, it can’t really be predicted.

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A tweet can make a difference.

I see this happen all the time. But many writers I’ve advised to blog and tweet, will grieve: “no matter what I do, I don’t see anyone coming to my blog!”

But then, suddenly, one day, one hour, and within ten seconds, that changes, and one of the most influential Twitterers falls upon your blog, and tweets about it to his thousands of followers. And suddenly, you see 20 new follows and an unprecedented spike in your web traffic; if you’re published, maybe even a spike in your Amazon ranking.

In publishing today, there is no such thing as “build it and they will come.”

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 I’ve just started a series called Book Jacket of the Week. Every week, I’ll pick something that catches my eye, and you can comment if you agree or disagree. Here is the first: do you recognize it?

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This week, the series continues with Man of La Book on the almighty powers of Twitter. You can see the first post of the series here.

Hello again, Zohar. Here’s one question that I, at least, would love to know: What makes you follow someone? Do you give it more than a moment’s thought? Are you most likely choosing on the basis of that person’s popularity or on their content? Have you noticed that following others increases your following, or has no effect?

Here is one no-brainer way to approach it: if someone follows me, I’m pretty likely to follow back. It seems indecent not to — no skin off my back! Many people believe that following back is good “netiquette:” if someone takes the time to listen to what I have to say, I like to show my appreciation.

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Here is the last segment of this week’s social media series before we say sadly say goodbye to Man of la Book. If you missed prior posts in the series you can find them here and here. And we’ll be back with more interviews with authors, bloggers, and publishing experts on in our next series on Authors and Social Media, coming soon.

First question: are there any favorite author Twitter feeds you follow? Why?

My favorite authors to follow are Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself), Chuck Palahniuk (@chuckpalahniuk) and Jason Pinter (@jasonpinter). They talk about writing, life, research, and you can always find them engaging with their followers.

It seems that the most popular tweeters constantly a) tweet constantly and b) link to breaking news, blogs, etc. According to your profile, you are a book blogger, engineer, “wood worker,” father and husband. How is that you can also tweet with such enthusiasm?

My secret is that I’m pretty good with technology. Combine that with obscene laziness and you find good solutions for such issues. I use the cotweet online utility to send out tweets at intervals (30 min. to 1 hour), but check Twitter several times a day to answer questions, interact with others or see what I might be missing (sometimes not much, but that doesn’t stop all of us on Twitter from checking anyway).

But don’t be fooled: it takes great patience, persistence and hard work. Though often a great substitute for real work.

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I heard it then when I started in book publicity at HarperCollins, and I still hear it as a consultant 8 years later.

The author asks: “Does publicity translate to sales?”
And the publisher responds: Not always.

“Am I going to get the Today Show, the New York Times, and NPR?”
Unlikely.

“Then, what is feasible?”
Well, unfortunately, it’s sort of wait-and-see.

“How do I increase visibility?”
Start a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. Here’s a template to guide you through it. (This answer is new, and even the question is, because it was understood the publisher would do everything!)

“Do pre-orders help? Special sales?”
Yes.

“How are you handling these?”
Please direct your question to  xxx@publisher.com and he’ll be happy to answer!

As devoted as publishers are to the books they acquire, the industry, in the last few years, has seen fewer acquisitions of debuts and “mid-list” (not quite bestselling) titles. Publishers are still gambling on the rare blockbuster bestseller: which means the books with the most commercial, often those written by celebrities and not writers, per se, are given the most investment in the ramp up to publication day. This means all remaining titles can fall to the wayside, and this can be hard to swallow; challenging even for those authors paid a substantial advance and naturally expecting that “the love would be there” come launch. with in-house publicists particularly good in approaching radio and television connections for appropriately “big” (i.e. controversial, political or celebrity) books. These publicists turn to proprietary media lists, which they figure, if these outlets worked for one book, should theoretically work for the next book in a similar category. But this is a paint-by-numbers approach. There’s rarely time to craft a comprehensive promotional strategy in the short lead time to publication when, given production time, finished books have just hit your desk. There’s negligible bandwidth to listen to an author’s specific ideas, to manage those expectations, or even to leverage an author’s particular connections, possibly the best resource authors have to promote themselves.

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I recently did an interview with my longtime partner in crime and book blogger extraordinaire, Lori Hettler of The Next Best Book Blog. (P.S. Lori will probably never edit me again, but we had a fun time with this, right Lori?)
Here’s a cut:

Is readership diminishing in the advent of digital publishing?
There will always be readers so long as there is human curiosity. I see digital publishing as a major advantage, not merely in terms of the infinite marketing avenues it allows, but also in terms of hard data that, historically, has not been accessible for authors or their publishers. We never knew who readers were before; what books they liked to read. My personal thought is that what I call “app-sized publishing” (or #micropublishing) is not a bad thing at all, but conversely offers authors and publishers a greater chance to stand out in a high-volume marketplace. This means more books, ultimately with lower production costs, more appeal for multimedia, and more readers—albeit with smaller attention spans.Consider my friend Ted, an avid reader who is also an MD/PHD. Ted has an IPad, an Android; he loves obscure social networks and blogs, and he likes to read on diverse subjects in the little time his schedule permits between classes and residency. In other words, on the subway.

Ted is the reader of the future: the kind writers need to write for, and publishers need to market to.

What does this mean for publishers and authors?
Book purchases at lower costs and higher volume. Greater reader engagement through interactive/social media integrated into enhanced eBooks or mobile apps. More visibility, creative power, and possibly financial benefit for authors.
Those of us who enjoy looking at visual media and reading books but are conservative in our spending—those who  wait for movies to release on-demand, and for cheaper iterations of the IPhone and IPad—likely do not buy a hardcover book at $25.99, unless you just can’t wait another minute for Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Tom Connelly’s, Stephanie Meyer’s, JK Rowling’s latest book. We’ll splurge to that. But a debut author with no prior bestselling credentials and zero recognition, save that great book review in the Times that your mother mentioned? Limited.I’m not saying don’t try to be a bestseller, get an agent, get a book deal with Random House! But if you come up dry, you have options. There are plenty of successful self-published authors out there, and with the dawn of “micropublishing”—not yet an industry term, FYI, just a term I’ve coined—readers can find and impulsively buy your books on mobile devices; we can follow you using social media. You could be the next Kindle Mover & Shaker. And then you can pursue that book deal you’ve been wanting, with your audience already established (which means, a bigger book deal.) Writers need patience above all…any agent or editor will tell you the marketplace is all about timing.

And yet, aspiring authors still see big deals happening for hardcover books….

I love the way the legendary editor Jonathan Karp puts it in a recent New York Magazine article, ‘As for the big advances,’ he says, “when publishers swing for the fences, I think that’s admirable. Does anyone want publishers to bunt?”  Publishers today bank on a book’s possibility to go out of the gate like gangbusters. But everyone knows this kind of success to be negligible, just like publishing’s precedents in music and film.  It’s a very difficult business to represent authors today, however talented, however devoted we are to their books. And so, while I love Karp’s wording above, I find it completely contradictory to his preceding sentence in the very same interview: “Why anyone would write a novel and not want everyone to read it is a mystery to me.” Wouldn’t that just prove that the app-sized or micropublishing model of lower advances, lower production costs, and lower prices is the preferable option if it offers the most expansive visibility bar none?Do you still even read The Book Review, or do you scan Goodreads for recommendations? Vote here.

Read More at: http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-kind-of-literary-agency_29.html  Read more »